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Why Presidents Day Is a Federal Holiday and Other Facts

Many Americans can look forward to an extra day off this month and plenty of sales, thanks to Presidents Day, which falls on Feb. 18 this year.

What is Presidents Day and why do we celebrate it?

The federal holiday, which was established by Congress in 1885, started as a celebration of founding father and first U.S. President George Washington’s birthday. Washington’s birthday was first recognized only as a holiday in Washington, D.C., but was later expanded to the rest of the country. The first president was born in Virginia on Feb. 22, 1732.

Why is Presidents Day always on a Monday?

Americans used to celebrate the holiday on Feb. 22 each year, but that changed in 1968 when Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The bill went into effect a year and a half later in 1971, and recognized various holidays to be observed on Mondays, ensuring several long weekends for workers throughout the year. Presidents Day in particular began to be celebrated on the third Monday of February.

Along with Washington’s birthday, the new law would also establish Monday holidays for Memorial Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day (now recognized by some cities, states, and universities as Indigenous Peoples Day), and Veterans Day.

How did celebrations of Presidents Day evolve?

The shift from celebrating Washington’s birthday to observing the holiday as Presidents Day eventually led people to believe the new date meant to celebrate both Washington and Abraham Lincoln, whose birthday also fell in February. Eventually, advertisers began using the three-day weekend as an opportunity to push shopping sales and bargains, according to History.com.